Philosophy: The Core Areas

The Culture Project has always been about starting at the very beginning, and nowhere is this more the case for me than in Philosophy, a subject which has been studied for millennia by people of tremendous genius, and about which I know practically nothing. In the grand tradition, then, of posting literally all I know about a particular subject, here is my brief explanation of the four core areas of Western philosophy, as studied for thousands of years by people much smarter than me.

Raphael school at athens
Raphael’s ‘School at Athens’ a.k.a. ‘that one really famous painting of a whole group of philosophers that you’ll see pretty much any time the subject is mentioned, anywhere’.

Continue reading “Philosophy: The Core Areas”

A Brief History of English Poetry


Rupert Brook The Soldier 1915
Rupert Brooke, ‘The Soldier’, 1915

Throughout its history, the glory of the English artistic spirit has always found its clearest expression in words, and while prose writing began to gain ascendency with the evolution of the novel in the 18th century, the roots of poetry extend much further back. Indeed, so far back do they go that the earliest poems are lost in the mists of time. What follows, then, is a very brief summary of some 1,500 years of literary history. Continue reading “A Brief History of English Poetry”

Wine Tasting 101 (Part Four: Oenophilia!)

concise-world-atlas-of-wineOkay, so it’s actually ‘oenophily’ (‘loving wine’), but I like my version better. Two years after I started The Culture Project, people seem to believe three things about me:

  1. I know a lot about wine.
  2. I’ve read a lot of books, listened to a lot of classical music, and generally know a lot of stuff.
  3. I know what I’m talking about.

Here’s the thing: I don’t, I haven’t, and much of the time the things I say represent the sum total of all my knowledge on that particular subject. Oh, and I absolutely could not write this blog without Google and Wikipedia. So, how does one go from actually knowing nothing about wine to giving the appearance of knowing something about it? Continue reading “Wine Tasting 101 (Part Four: Oenophilia!)”

Wine Tasting 101 (Part Two: Name That Smell)

The second stage of wine tasting. (c) Wine Folly

In the first post in this series, I talked about the five stages of wine tasting. In this post I’m going to focus on Stage Two: Smell.

You may have noticed that regardless of their size many wine glasses share a common ‘tulip’ shape, being wider at the bottom and narrowing slightly at the top (they also have a stem, which I’ll hopefully remember to talk about in another post), and that they are much bigger than the 100mls which is a standard drink. This is quite deliberate: the extra space in the glass allows the wine to interact with the air, releasing the aroma, while the tapered shape then concentrates that aroma close to the drinker’s nose and mouth. So, what should you be smelling? Continue reading “Wine Tasting 101 (Part Two: Name That Smell)”

Wine Tasting 101 (Part One: The Stages of Wine-Tasting)

Let’s do it!

Some time back I said I’d write a post about wine-tasting, and then never got around to it. In this short series of short posts (I’m planning on keeping it as simple as possible) I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned about how to taste wine. Today is Part One: The Stages of Wine-Tasting. Continue reading “Wine Tasting 101 (Part One: The Stages of Wine-Tasting)”

Why I Want to Know More About Philosophy


If you’ve glanced through my most recent reading list you will have noticed that it includes a book called ‘The Story of Philosophy’. Philosophy is a subject about which I know very little, but just enough to know that I want to know more.

As I understand it, philosophy at its heart represents a particular way of looking at and understanding the world, one which is focussed primarily on the use of human reason. It asks questions such as ‘how can we know what we know?’ ‘What is good? What is right? What is just?’ ‘How can we establish the truth of a statement?’, and seeks to answer them not through appeal to divine revelation, nor through observation and experimentation, but rather through discussion and reflection.

At a time when radicals on both sides are keen to portray a false dichotomy between religion and science, and to stoke the fires of conflict which such dichotomies all too easily produce, I see philosophy as having a valuable contribution to make in bridging the emerging gulf between those who feel compelled to choose one side or the other.

In this I must freely acknowledge my bias. I am a Christian, a sincere believer that Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish teacher who lived two thousand years ago, was no ordinary man but was rather, in some mysterious way, both truly God and truly Human, and begotten by the one true God who made heaven and earth, all that is, and all that ever more shall be.

We offer thanks and praise to God… for science and discoveries, for our life together, for Aotearoa, New Zealand.

– Eucharistic Liturgy of Thanksgiving and Praise, from ‘A New Zealand Prayer Book’

The claims of my religion are rooted in history but they contain much which can never be historically verified. Does God exist? Was Jesus truly divine? Was he a madman, a conman, or a myth? Are the things he taught and did relevant to us today? If so, how? Reasoned arguments can be made both for and against all of these positions, but in the twenty-first century reasoned arguments can be few and far between.

But my interest in philosophy is not primarily focussed on defending (or testing) my faith. I am genuinely curious to know what the great thinkers of history have thought about, and how, and whether and how those ways of thinking might be relevant for my life. And so, philosophy.

Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC)

aoc-labelI haven’t said anything about wine in a while, so just in case you thought I was on the wagon (yeah, nah), here’s a post about why New Zealand champagne isn’t champagne.

It all comes back to the giant of global winemaking, France. In the early twentieth century the French government began laying the legislative groundwork for what would officially become, by the middle of the century, the Appellation d’origine contrôlée, the ‘Controlled Designation of Origin.’ Here in the New World we identify our wines by the grape varietal or varietals used to make it, which is why most of my wine-related posts concentrate on profiling the varietal wines most commonly found in New Zealand. Back in the Old World (i.e. Europe) wine is identified by its place of origin. Continue reading “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC)”

A Very Short History of Art: Into Modernity

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, ‘Marcelle Lender Doing the Bolero in ‘Chilperic’, 1895

Even before the First World War, not everyone in the world of art was cocooned in the golden haze of Impressionism. As early as the 1880s, just a decade after the term ‘Impressionist’ had been coined, another group of artists were producing work which would collectively come to be identified as ‘Post-Impressionist’. Continue reading “A Very Short History of Art: Into Modernity”

A Very Short History of Art: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Realism, and Impressionism

1 Camille Corot A View Near Volterra 1838
Camille Corot, ‘A View Near Volterra’, 1838. Neither Romantic nor Realist, but merging aspects of both, this view is a real one, based on sketches Corot made on a visit to Italy a decade before.

From the early Christian period to the Rococo, the story of European art is one of evolution: the Gothic art of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries blossomed into the Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth, which developed into the elaborate Baroque of the seventeenth century, which reached the furthest extent of its development in the Rococo of the early eighteenth. Only at that point did a conscious disconnection from the immediately preceding style occur, first in the opposition of Neoclassicism to the principles of the Rococo, and then in the rebellion of Romanticism against the principles of Neoclassicism.

But as we move into the nineteenth century, something different happens. For the first time, rather than a single, unified artistic school or a pair of opposing schools we encounter the beginnings of a plurality of distinct artistic styles. These styles sprang from different, sometimes conflicting, artistic philosophies, but they coexisted alongside one another, and in doing so arguably laid the groundwork for the endless variation in artistic expression which would be produced by the artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Continue reading “A Very Short History of Art: The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Realism, and Impressionism”

A Beginner’s Guide to Reading the Bible

*post is based on a document I put together a few years ago, so apologies for any weird formatting*

A while after I became a Christian, I realised I needed to read the Bible. So, I began at the beginning, and read through to the end. It soon became clear to me that this was a mistake, but I didn’t know what else to do except press on. It wasn’t until I spent a year studying for a Diploma in Biblical Studies that I realised where I had gone wrong, and what follows is my attempt to help anyone who’s thinking about tackling the Bible for the first time to avoid some of my pitfalls.

Like many Christians in the affluent West, I have a lot of Bibles.

Continue reading “A Beginner’s Guide to Reading the Bible”